Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Writers' Plot Thickens Into Auction for Free Speech

Filed under
Web

Now's your chance to die in a Stephen King novel or be portrayed "in a good light" in the next thriller from John Grisham -- while championing the cause of free speech.

That's the idea behind a charity auction on eBay that starts Sept. 1 and features 16 authors selling character names to the highest bidders. All proceeds go to the First Amendment Project, a nonprofit legal group dedicated to free speech.

In addition to King and Grisham, writers agreeing to sell a name in their upcoming books include Amy Tan, Peter Straub, Nora Roberts, Lemony Snicket and Dave Eggers. All have penned summaries of what they plan to offer in an auction preview at http://www.ebay.com/fap

Not all are selling characters. Neil Gaiman has offered to include "your name, or the name of someone you love" on a gravestone in his upcoming novel. Snicket, a popular children's writer, is offering "an utterance" by a certain character, but concedes the spelling may be "mutilated."

The most priceless preview comes from horrormeister King, who writes that he will want his buyer to provide a physical description and nickname ("can be made up, I don't give a rip," he writes) and that "a buyer who wants to die must in this case be female.'' The winning bidder will appear in King's book "Cell" next year or in 2007.

In all cases, anyone named must grant their permission, said David Greene, executive director of the First Amendment Project. Each auction will last 10 days. To deter fraudulent bidding, once bidding goes over $1,000, participants will be contacted to verify that they intend to pay, said Eric Gazin, president of AuctionCause, the company managing the event.

The auction was started by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon, who serves on the advisory board of the First Amendment Project. He began soliciting contributions from writers a few months ago, when he realized the group was running out of money. Gaiman suggested he consider an auction modeled after a smaller charity event he held last year, in which he sold the name of a cruise ship in his next novel for $3,500.

Chabon, who also plans to sell one of his character's names, said almost every writer asked to participate agreed immediately.

One who did balk told him, "It's a great cause, but I just can't give somebody else that amount of control over my book. I need to be able to name my characters."

Chabon admitted that the couple of times he has auctioned off minor characters in his novels -- to raise money for his children's school, for example -- he wasn't too happy with the results: "The winning names were not even remotely names I would have chosen or invented."

But that paled beside what happened to a novelist who held a similar charity auction years ago, Chabon said: A rival author won and asked that his name be inserted in the novelist's book. That's why he has a line in his preview reserving "the right not to use the name if it is offensive, mischievous, ill-intentioned or inappropriate."

By Leslie Walker
The Washington Post

More in Tux Machines

Chapeau 24 Cancellara - Same same but different

Fedora plus Moka icons plus some extra software, mainly coming from proprietary sources. I guess that's the best way to describe Chapeau. But then, what separates one distro from another if not a collection of decorations, as software is essentially the same, apart from a very small number of standalone distributions trying to develop their own identity with their own desktop environments and app stack, re: elementary or Solus + Budgie? Except they struggle, too. Chapeau 24 is a nice effort to make Fedora friendlier, but then it does not achieve the needed result without pain. The biggest issues included a botched smartphone support. Samba woes and the horrible bootloader bug. Other than that, it behaved more or less the same way as the parent distro. Then again, why bother if you can pimp up Fedora without any loss of functionality? I do like Chapeau Cancellara, but I cannot ignore the fact Fedora does the same with fewer problems. All in all, it's a welcome effort, but it needs more polish. It does not quite capture the heart the way Fuduntu did. And with some issues looming high above the distro, the grade can only be about 6/10. Most importantly, the bootloader setup must be flawless, and there's not excuse for small app errors that we've seen. We know it can do more. Anyhow, if you're not keen on any self-service round Fedora, this could be a good test bed for your games. A moderately worthy if somewhat risky and flawed experience. Read more

Mofo Linux: The Raw Materials for Security

The developers of Mofo Linux talk a good game. From the name’s origin in abusive street slang to its self-description on the home page as “Linux designed to defeat state censorship and surveillance,” Mofo presents itself as a champion of security and privacy. Nor is the claim unjustified. However, rather than putting security and privacy into the hands of ordinary users, Mofo simply presents the tools and leaves users to figure them out with a minimum of help. The result is a promising distribution that with only slightly more work, could be a leading one. Just possibly, though, this approach is a deliberate tactic, and not the carelessness it appears. Based on Ubuntu, the current release of Mofo offers nothing different in the way of productivity tools. It uses Unity for a desktop, and its applications are the standard GNOME ones. In fact, Mofo shows such little interest in such matters that it does not bother to change the title bar in the installer from Ubuntu. Read more

Happily Announcing Mageia 5.1

As we’re getting closer to the end of the year, Mageia has a present for you! We are very pleased to announce the release of Mageia 5.1! This release – like Mageia 4.1 was in its time – is a respin of the Mageia 5 installation and Live ISO images, based on the Mageia 5 repository and incorporating all updates to allow for an up to date installation without the need to install almost a year and a half worth of updates. It is therefore recommended for new installations and upgrades from Mageia 4. The new images are available from the downloads page, both directly and through torrents. Read more Also: After a long wait, Mageia was released! Well, sort of...

Today in Techrights